Archive for December, 2008

Solving Africa, by Junior Kanu

December 11, 2008


The notion that a single man could actually “solve” Africa might seem unrealistic and, indeed, audacious. But you have got to respect the ambition, the ideals, and the sense of purpose of Junior Kanu, a 23 yr old Nigerian who will be graduating from the NYU journalism program this Friday and already has plans to spend the first part of 2009 traveling around the world’s oldest continent, capturing the dreams of young Africans he meets along the way and conflating these narratives into a book he intends to title, “Solving Africa.”

I have had the pleasure of talking with Jr. via email for the past few days and afterward offered to do whatever I could to support his project. In that light, I would encourage anyone interested in helping Africa’s Cheetah Generation develop their continent to please checkout the Solving Africa website and join the Solving Africa Facebook group.

Although Junior and I seem to be on opposite trajectories, him traveling to Africa and me going back to the States, I hope to keep in touch with him and watch his journey. I encourage you all to do the same.

-J. K. Wade

References & Critiques

December 10, 2008

Y’all,

I have come to peace with my Alternative MBA Application. I don’t think I can add much more – it’s too long already – and I don’t know what I would take away. The only things I know I am missing, I cannot provide.

I need references. As Seth Godin puts it, I need “an impeccable list of references.” So this is a request to all of my friends, peers, co-workers, colleagues, and mentors to add any true, honest, and relevant feedback about me to my Squidoo page/Alternative-MBA Application in the form of a comments at the bottom of the page. If you have feedback that you don’t want other to see, let me know and we can figure out how to get that sent in as well.

I would also appreciate comments, suggestions, and critiques of my application. Be honest. I need to improve.

Finally, if you would like to apply or have any questions, please let me know, but do it quickly; the application deadline for the Alternative MBA Program is 14 December.

-J.K. Wade

Entrepreneurship & Journalism in Ghana

December 9, 2008

I have been living in Accra, Ghana for a year now, teaching high-tech entrepreneurship, and I have developed some thoughts and insights on entrepreneurship in Ghana. I plan to publish these thoughts over the next few months while I am home collecting my thoughts, but I wanted to start today with some basic statements.

I lost interest in Ghanaian journalism sometime in March due to the frequent use of platitudes, blatantly false statements that were published without source or citation, and obvious bias in many of the articles I read. Regardless, I am glad I glanced at the online version of the Graphic today to see these two articles:

  1. Private Sector Wants More From Gov’t
  2. Ghana to Get Russia-Lybia Joint-Venture Power Plant

While I don’t think these are the greatest articles on the subject I was happy to see the topics being addressed in the Ghanaian press, where it actually matters.

For business and entrepreneurship to take-off in Ghana there will need to be more local, as opposed to foreign, business to keep money in the country. As it stands, many of the countries most lucrative industries are controlled or strongly influenced by foreigners.

There will also need to be understanding, appreciation, and a concentrated effort on the part of the Ghanaian government to support new businesses in the country. Currently, it takes too long to get a simple sole-proprietor business license, taxes are too high, and it is almost impossible to get the proper paperwork to run a legitimate business without paying off bureaucrats.

Another element that must be addressed is the poor infrastructure; not only are the roads in many regions dilapidated, but even the power grid in Accra give out multiple times a week. Internet is more than a challenge and I think there needs to be a serious investment in fiber.

As poor as I think the journalism is in Ghana, I must admit that there is a considerable amount of freedom of speech in the country. I hope Ghanaian journalists continue to write on these topics and will call out the politicians who are standing in the way of necessary development. And I hope the the next President of the Republic of Ghana (Nana Akufo-Addo or Dr. John Atta Mills) will do their best to support such developments and criticism.

My two cents for now. More to come later.

-J. K. Wade

Shout out to B

December 9, 2008


I spent much of today tracking down and cleaning up my on-line presence: I have 3 email accounts, 3 main chat/IM account, a del.icio.us account, a twitter account, a blog, and am a member at least 4 social networking sites (why so much? this is something I will blog about later).

While browsing around one such social networking site, SoulGenesis, which is focused on social activism, environmentalism and music I saw a familiar face in the “Featured Members” section of the SoulGen homepage. It was Brian Peterson, an educator/author/blogger who has helped me out considerably during my days as president of the UPenn Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. I have to admit that I never knew B (as he is often referred to) that well, but I wish I had as I was always impressed by his calming nature, intelligent input, and most of all, his compassion. This post is my attempt to say thanks, promote his work, and make sure B gets the credit he deserves.

You can read more about B, here, and I really encourage you to check out the blog he wrote during the 2008 presidential elections. Keep up the good work, B. We need more teachers and mentors like you.

-J. K. Wade

My Alternative MBA Application

December 9, 2008

A few days ago I mentioned that Seth Godin was offering an Alternative MBA program. Well, I decided to apply, and per Seth’s instructions I have built a Squidoo lens answering these nine questions:

  • What do you do now?
  • Why do you do it?
  • What are you hoping to learn?
  • After you learn it, what are you going to do with it?
  • Tell me a true story about making a change in the world.
  • Have you overcome a Dip?
  • What astonishing thing did you do before you did what you do now.
  • Make a wish.
  • What else should I know?

You can see my application/lens here. I would really appreciate comments and feedback about how I might improve my application. Also, if you are looking to apply and need feedback, feel free to send me the URL.

Thanks and good luck.

-J K Wade

Seth Godin says, "Don’t go to business school"

December 7, 2008


I received an email a few days ago from a friend who does internet marketing in NYC, stating that Seth Godin was doing something crazy. He was offering an alternative MBA program to those who have come to the realization that business school is highly overrated and very expensive (opp cost + real cost). Well, actually, it’s more of an apprenticeship, but he is marketing it as an Alternative-MBA program and he is a “marketing guru” so I guess I will trust him. Regardless, it fits pretty well with some of my thoughts and interest right now.

For those of you who don’t know Seth Godin, he writes this blog, these books, and sounds/looks like this.

But back to the point: I always assumed I would get an MBA. Many of my mentors, understanding my aptitudes and career goals, have advised me to do so. Indeed, it seems like a logical next step after forcing my way through an undergraduate engineering degree that served mainly to confirm my assumption that I am best situated on the business-end of technology, but recently I have started to wonder what an MBA would actually do for me. I admit I could use some of the financial and program management training, but, really, I think I could learn those things on the job.

Seth Godin has blogged about not going to B-school once or twice before, even hinting that he would start his own business school. Godin has also long been a supporter of and contributor to the Personal MBA movement.

So, for those of you interested in learning more please check out this link an apply:
http://www.squidoo.com/Alternative-MBA

Deadline: 14 December 2008
Program begins: 19 January 2009

-J K Wade

My Superhero Philosophy

December 3, 2008

The Superhero Mythos:
I just gave my last lecture as a Meltwater Teaching Fellow on Tuesday, 02 December 2008. The final topic had little to do with business or entrepreneurship, instead I told the trainees a story about myself and the three-fold superhero philosophy that I use to guide my life. Here it is. I am currently in my Batman phase; read on to see what I mean.

Spiderman
Just after his receiving his amazing abilities, Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spiderman)’s uncle told him that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” I have internalized this idea and it has given me the impetus which all of my other work rests upon. I grew up in a family without a lot of money, but I would never say we were poor. We didn’t have the debilitating mentality and deficit of opportunities that plagues most poor families, but I did know many people who were more adversely affected by their economic standing than I was. I was blessed with intelligence and charisma that many people I knew didn’t have or failed to utilize. I was also born into a family that encouraged my development and growth, I was born into a country where even some of the poorest families have electricity, clean water, and shelter. I feel I was given great power through my intelligence, which made it possible for me to succeed in school and my charisma, which made it possible for me to gather social capital that was probably outside the reach of most people in my socioeconomic position. These blessings have lead me to believe that it is my responsibility to help others. With this belief secure in my mind and heart I went off to pursue the knowledge and skills that would help me fulfill my responsibility.

Batman
Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) experienced an extreme sense of loss as a child when his parents were gunned down by a thief. He used that experience to push himself to the peak of human mental and physical capability. He traveled, learning the secrets of the world, and he trained his mind and body with one goal in mind: He would use his skills to ensure others were spared the pain he felt. Batman, unlike Spiderman was not blessed with great power, he pursued it; he felt the sense of responsibility first and then went out into the world and into his soul to find it. So while I believe I have been blessed with intelligence and charisma, I feel that I can acquire skills. So I devoted myself in high-school and college to gathering as much talent and skill as I could so I could use my power to help others. I chose to study electrical engineering because I thought it was the most useful course of study and could be used to solve problems. During my quest I began thinking about what I would do once I had gained enough knowledge, skill, and ability to be powerful. Doesn’t power corrupt?

Superman
Clark Kent (aka Superman) was given incredible power- nearly absolute power. Imagine being a small child with an impulsive attitude and selfish nature (as most children are), but imagine that no one could stop you. What would you do? Would you abuse such power? The most remarkable thing about Superman is not that he felt a responsibility to use his power for good, like Spiderman, but that he chose not to use his powers for evil. He had the ability to dominate the world, but chose not to – Superman’s greatest power is his restraint. I hope to exercise Superman’s level of restraint in my life once I have gained enough skill, status, and knowledge to be considered powerful.

Conclusion
I feel blessed to have the talents and opportunities I have had in my life and for as long as I can remember I have felt a responsibility to use my gifts to affect change and help people (Spiderman Phase), but I knew that the gifts I was naturally blessed with would not be enough, so I resolved myself to gather as much skill and knowledge as possible; I wanted to become powerful in order to help others (Batman Phase). But I knew that becoming powerful was a dangerous quest and that once I acquire such power I must be wise enough that I do not become complacent or use my power for selfish gains. It may be juvenile, it may be immature, but this is seriously the philosophy that guides my life.